Staff Picks: Fred Melamed, Lennon Parham, and Non-Traditional Casting in Theater


Need a great book to read, album to listen to, or TV show to get hooked on? The Flavorwire team is here to help: in this weekly feature, our editorial staffers recommend the cultural object or experience they’ve enjoyed most in the past seven days. Scroll through for our picks below.

Fred Melamed

One pleasant consequence of the current TV boom is that the staggering amount of shows in production means lots of work for actors — particularly, lots of meaty supporting roles for performers like Fred Melamed, who’s done great work on a few series in recent years. Melamed is a veteran screen actor — he’s appeared in several Woody Allen movies, including Hannah and her Sisters and Crimes and Misdemeanors — but you might recognize him more from his role as the cuckolding Sy Ableman in the Coen Brothers’ 2009 film, A Serious Man.

This year, Melamed has a memorable role as Maria Bamford’s manager in the comedian’s Netflix series, Lady Dynamite, and had an arc on New Girl back in January (not to mention a part in the Coen Brothers’ Hail, Caesar!). Last year — on top of a guest role on a particularly good fourth season episode of Girls — he played Michaela Watkins’ father on the Hulu original series Casual, which returns for a second season next week. Melamed often plays a wise authority figure who seems to say all the right things but leaves you scratching your head (he’d make a great fictional president). Keep your eyes peeled for this perennial supporting actor! — Lara Zarum, Contributor, TV

Lennon Parham in Veep and Lady Dynamite

In keeping with Lara’s post, two comedies I — and probably you — have been watching lately have been bolstered by the hilarity of UCB vet Lennon Parham’s delivery as the useless friend of two central characters. In Veep, she plays Selina Meyers’ semi-friend, Karen, from her lawyer past. In the fourth season, Karen worked as Selina’s advisor until Selina finally realized the self-nullifying nature of her advice, and how she always chimes in while masterfully and convincingly saying nothing. Similarly, as Maria Bamford’s friend/assistant Larissa on Lady Dynamite, she assumes an air of self-importance and sensitivity while never really helping, and transparently gets out of being a good friend by, say, not visiting Bamford in the psych ward because she’s too much of an “empath.” In both roles Parham’s humor comes from a sense of self-assurance and good intentions coasting atop the insecurities of someone who gets by on sharply knowing how to not know what they’re doing at all. Whether her characters are spewing the jargon of bureaucracy or hippiedom, they do it with such compassionate intonation as to elude, at least for a while, their friends’ realizations of how futile they are. Parham has crafted the funniest lenders of helping hindering hands on TV. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor

Apple Workshops as People Watching Experiences

I attended my first Apple Workshop at the Apple Store in SoHo this weekend. Attended is a strong word. I casually sat in while my girlfriend got her phone fixed. I was surprised to find that it was actually not attended solely by the elderly, but groups of international movers and shakers, and a couple of other curious wanna-be techies like me. I should also mention that it was the SoHo, NY location so everyone was extremely well dressed. It was one of my favorite people watching experiences to date, and I figured out how to type a text message in bold if I want. — Sesali Bowen, (Pop) Culture and Politics Staff Writer

Non-Traditional Casting

I had the very good fortune to see two outstanding plays this weekend: The Taming of the Shrew, the Public Theater’s first Shakespeare in the Park production of the summer, and Hamilton, which needs no introduction. I consider both to be works of genius, not only in the performance or the storytelling, but in the casting. Shrew director Phyllida Lloyd upends the play’s difficult gender politics with an all-female cast. Hamilton is famous partly for casting people of color as the Founding Fathers and the women in their lives. Of the approximately 50 performers I saw this weekend, I believe only two were white, non-Hispanic men. As a white man myself, I guess I was “supposed” to be aggrieved or affronted by this, but I applaud it. The women playing the men of Shrew were just as cruel and unforgivable as the Shakespeare demands. In fact, with gender blurred, I discovered how much of the play is simply about money, marrying rich — and thus treating women as property, or prizes to be won. As for Hamilton, seeing famous historical figures portrayed by actors of color didn’t seem “wrong” or “weird.” The first act is about a group of powerless men taking their destiny into their own hands; in 2016, that group wouldn’t be entirely white, straight, Christian, and male. I know I’m hardly the first or loudest or most important voice on this issue, but I urge everyone to see plays that feature non-traditional casting to get a fresh perspective on some classic works; and I encourage budding directors to think outside the box when it comes to casting. Shrew, by the way, runs through June 26 in NYC.Jason Ginsburg, Social Media Editor

The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared (dir. Felix Herngren)

The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared, released in 2013, is essentially Sweden’s take on Forrest Gump. Centered on the titular centenarian Allan Karlsson, played by Robert Gustafsson, the film tells the story of an old man who escapes from a nursing home only to bumble his way into a gang-related criminal act that involves a suitcase full of cash. Throughout, we’re treated to snippets of his life as an orphan with a penchant for explosives, and from there the film creates an alternate history that involves Stalin, Einstein’s fictional brother Herbert, Robert Oppenheimer, and an escape from an internment camp. It’s a charming tale, but it’s also bloody: early on, the young Karlsson explodes a man, his disembodied head landing on the hood of his wife’s car. At some point, an elephant named Sonja is involved, and that elephant may or may not sit on a man’s head. It’s set-piece after set-piece, and to list them all here would be exhausting. Instead, go watch the film; it’s a good way to kill two hours of a beautiful summer day. — Shane Barnes, Associate Editor

Pinkwash’s “Longer Now”

Pinkwash’s Joey Doubek and Ashley Arnwine moved to Philadelphia shortly after Doubek’s mom died of breast cancer in 2009. Most of their recorded output (a 2014 EP, a 2015 single, and their debut LP Collective Sigh) is a direct response to the experience; the name itself is a reference to dubious corporate pink-ribbon campaigns and co-opted LGBTI movements. For music about loss, Collective Sigh is aggressive, angular, and unforgiving. Arnwine’s drumming is virtuosic, keeping time amid rapidly shifting tempos, with intermittent stutter steps and perpetually crashing symbols. Here on “Longer Now,” a screeching guitar riff is offset with an almost serene synthesizer tone, and Doubek’s wail feels both pained and cathartic. — Matthew Ismael Ruiz, Music Editor

Another Round podcast crossover with Call Your Girlfriend

It doesn’t matter if you like podcasts; if you don’t, but you’re into feminism, pop culture, politics, racial justice, or just lady friendships, you need to be listening to Call Your Girlfriend with Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow and Buzzfeed’s Another Round podcast with Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton. They’re both more Pop Culture Happy Hour than This American Life, with sardonic segments honoring the forgotten heroes of white history (with Whine About It’s Matt Bellassai), with interviews with Jenna Wortham, Melinda Gates, Hillary Clinton, and Roxane Gay, with all around smart, funny, full conversations. They’re both very vocal about self-care and mental health, career advice, and just getting through life, y’all. In the era of the clickbaity soundbite, they bring nuanced critique, and they are so good about extending their platform to women of color.

The crossover episode combines the greatness of these four women, and they all blend like they’ve been friends for years. On Another Round, they discuss medical cards as the future of period pain relief, respectability politics, and a few rounds of Fuck, Marry, Kill. On Call Your Girlfriend’s crossover, it’s all about the Pope and Bernie, Trump, and cis dudes trying period pain machines. Do yourself a favor and listen to every single episode, and also sign up for both of their newsletters. – Carmen Triola, Editorial Apprentice